5 valuable reasons to do your Christmas shopping locally this year
Expert insights into how your Christmas gifts can keep on giving when you get them locally, with benefits for you, your loved ones and the community.
Christmas shopping is a bit like working out: Some people love it, some hate it and some do it because they know the outcome is worth more than hours spent trawling websites or shopping centres.
This year, Australians are set to spend $23.9 billion over the holiday season, according to new Finder research. Presents top the list in terms of where our money is going, with the average person expected to spend $374 on gifts (out of a total of $1,232 for the season).
But it's the thought that really counts, as the saying goes, and that extends beyond what you buy to where you actually buy it.
Shopping locally is an alternative to jumping online or heading to the nearest major retail mall.
We spoke to American Express vice president of small merchants for Australia and New Zealand, Lisa Belcher, and the CEO of the Australian Retailers Association, Paul Zahra, to get the lowdown on some of the biggest reasons to shop locally this Christmas.
1. Support small businesses
All of us know small business owners have had a tough time during the coronavirus pandemic. You might even have noticed some closing down in your local area (I know I have).
New research from American Express has shown that this year's holiday season will be make-or-break for nearly one third (30%) of Australian small businesses and another 38% say that weak sales will force their hand at having to make serious changes to their business.
In an interview about the research, vice president of small merchants for American Express Australia and New Zealand Lisa Belcher told Finder "this year's festive trading season will be critical, so we're urging people to prioritise their Christmas shopping by visiting small businesses."
"As an example, if every Australian adult purchased a $100 Christmas gift at a small business, it would deliver an additional $2 billion boost to the sector," she said.
"Shopping with a small business has a direct impact on local communities, and it makes people feel good when they can see their money is making a positive difference."
2. Avoid delivery delays
Almost every website I've visited for shopping now has a big banner with details about delivery delays.
"There's a myriad of issues at play that are creating the perfect storm for businesses and consumers approaching Christmas," the CEO of the Australian Retailers Association, Paul Zahra, told Finder in an interview.
"At a global level, there's significant pressure on shipping with container costs escalating up to 7 times their usual rate. Locally, online sales have surged in recent months, some distribution centres and warehouses continue to be impacted by reduced staffing levels due to COVID cases, we've had industrial disputes…and limited flights are also impacting the movement of goods."
With all these issues, there is a real risk that online Christmas shopping will be delayed. Going into an actual shop means you can see exactly what's there – and get it in time for your celebrations.
Zahra also noted that small businesses may not be as affected as bigger ones, "depending on where and how they source their goods".
Given the supply chain issues and with many people choosing to work from home, we could see more consumers choosing to shop local for the convenience of getting what they want there and then.”
3. Get inspiration (and personalised service)
Shopping locally means you can speak to the experts – people who work in the store and know what's in stock, what's popular and what fits with your budget.
"Small businesses often have a unique range of items that they have personally selected based on what they believe their customers will like – something that's incredibly special about shopping with a small business," Belcher said.
"Plus, the personal service you get from shopping with a small business is hard to replicate."
It's also a chance for you to enjoy the process of actually visiting a store, after so many restrictions through 2020 and 2021.
Our research showed that many people genuinely missed the physical in-store experience of shopping with a small business.”
4. Make greener choices
If you're conscious of the impact Christmas can have on the environment, shopping locally gives you an opportunity to make more sustainable decisions.
"There's been a dynamic shift in consumer behaviour over the past couple of years with people becoming more values-driven when it comes to their shopping," Zahra told Finder.
Consumers resonate more strongly with the brands that reflect the social and environmental issues that are important to them, so issues like sustainability and climate change are becoming key issues for businesses in terms of their customer relationships.”
Having the chance to talk to a small business owner or staff member about these values means you can choose greener gifts for your loved ones.
But just the act of shopping locally also helps, because it cuts down on carbon emissions caused by shipping. As a whole, the transport and logistics industry makes up around 18% of all carbon emissions in Australia and the Australian Climate Council has estimated it will produce 111 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
Unless your online shopping is delivered by a carbon-neutral company like Sendle or carbon offset, it will contribute to these emissions.
If you shop locally, you can skip delivery and may even be able to walk there and back. If you can, you'll even get to enjoy some outdoor time as part of the process.
5. Enjoy some perks
As well as personalised service, shopping locally can bring other benefits. For example, you might be able to get your gifts wrapped then and there, while having a nice chat to the person working. Or be able to leave your presents behind the counter and pick them up later, if you need to hide them from someone special.
It also means you can take in all the Christmas window displays, something that's hard to recreate online (or while dealing with the masses of people at major shopping centres).
As part of its Shop Small initiative, American Express has actually partnered with Vivid festival director Gill Minervini to create spectacular window displays in 3 small businesses: Art on King in Newtown (NSW), Collector Store in Paddington (NSW) and HANDSOME in Fitzroy (Victoria).
"For this year's campaign, we were inspired by the spectacular window displays traditionally seen in larger retailers around the world," Belcher said in a statement.
"On a slightly smaller scale, we are delivering the same level of delight and magic to local communities but most importantly bringing customers...through the doors of small businesses."
If you have an Amex card you can also earn an extra 3 points per $1 spent with these businesses, and with any other small business that's part of the Shop Small program.
You just need to save the American Express Shop Small offer to your card and spend with participating businesses by 31 March 2022. The offer is valid both in store and online and you can earn a maximum total of 40,000 extra points.
Belcher told Finder that at the heart of Shop Small is an aim "to get people to consider how they spend their money, and to know that every dollar spent in a small business can make a big impact."
A small business is someone's passion and livelihood. It employs locals and contributes significantly to the vitality of local communities.”
So maybe the biggest perk of all is being able to support these businesses when you're getting presents for all your loved ones.
Pictures: Getty Images, Supplied (American Express)